What Are Occupational Safety And Health Consultation Services?
Consultation is a free service employers can use to improve their occupational safety and health management systems, find out about potential hazards at their worksites, and even qualify for a one-year exemption from routine OSHA inspection.
The service is delivered on-site using well-trained professional staff, though limited services away from the worksite are also available. Primarily targeted for smaller businesses, our safety and health consultation program is completely separate from the OSHA inspection effort. In addition, no citations are issued or penalties proposed. It’s confidential, too. Your name, your firm’s name, and any information you provide about your workplace, plus any unsafe or unhealthful working conditions that the consultant uncovers, will not be reported routinely to the OSHA inspection staff. Your only obligation will be to commit yourself to correcting serious job safety and health hazards – a commitment which you are expected to make prior to the actual visit and carry out in a timely manner.
The Consultation Process
Getting Started: Since consultation is a voluntary activity, you must request it. Your telephone call, email (see Request A Consultation), or letter sets the consulting machinery in motion. The consultant will discuss your specific needs with you and set up a visit based on the priority assigned to your request, your work schedule, and the time needed for the consultant to prepare adequately to serve you. OSHCON encourages a complete review of your firm’s safety and health situation; however, if you wish you may limit the visit to one or more specific problems.
Opening Conference: When the consultant arrives at your worksite for the scheduled visit, he or she will first meet with you to review the consultant’s role and your obligation as an employer.
Walk-Through: Together, you and the consultant will examine conditions in your workplace. OSHCON strongly encourages maximum employee participation in the walk-through. Better informed and more alert employees can more easily work with you to identify and correct potential injury and illness hazards in your workplace. Talking with employees during the walk-through helps the consultant identify and judge the nature and extent of specific hazards. The consultant will study your entire workplace or the specific operations you designate and discuss the applicable OSHA standards. Consultants also will point out other safety or health risks which might not be cited under OSHA standards, but which nevertheless may pose safety or health risks to your employees. They may suggest and even provide other measures such as self-inspection and safety and health training you and your employees can apply to prevent future hazardous situations.
A comprehensive consultation also includes:
- appraisal of all mechanical and environmental hazards and physical work practices
- appraisal of the present job safety and health program or the establishment of one
- a conference with management on findings
- a written report of recommendations and agreements
- training and assistance with implementing recommendations.
Closing Conference: The consultant will then review detailed findings with you in a closing conference. You will learn not only what you need to improve, but what you are doing right, as well. At that time you can discuss problems, possible solutions and an abatement period to eliminate or control any serious hazards identified during the walk-through. In rare instances, the consultant may find an “imminent danger” situation during the walkthrough. If so, you must take immediate action to protect all employees. In certain other situations, those which would be judged a “serious violation” under OSHA criteria, you and the consultant are required to develop and agree to a reasonable plan and schedule to eliminate or control that hazard. The consultants will offer general approaches and options to you. They may also suggest other sources
for technical help.
Abatement and Follow Through: Following the closing conference, the consultant will send you a detailed written report explaining the findings and confirming any abatement periods agreed upon. Consultants may also contact you from time to time to check your progress. You, of course, may always contact them for assistance. Ultimately, OSHA does require hazard abatement so that each consultation visit achieves its objective – effective employee protection. If you fail to eliminate or control identified serious hazards (or an imminent danger) according to the plan and within the limits agreed upon or an agreed-upon extension, the situation must be referred from consultation to an OSHA enforcement office for appropriate action. This has occurred only rarely in the past.
Benefits Of Consultation
Knowledge of your workplace hazards and ways to eliminate them can only improve your own operations – and the management of your firm. You will get professional advice and assistance on the correction of workplace hazards and benefits from on site training and assistance provided by the consultant to you and your employees. The consultant can help you establish or strengthen an employee safety and health program, making safety and health activities routine considerations rather than crisis-oriented responses. These services are provided free of charge to qualifying businesses to assist them in promoting successful programs of safety and health management.
Workplace injuries and illnesses can impact your company’s profits. OSHA’s $afety Pays Program can help you estimate the cost to your business of injuries and illnesses, and how much income you would need to cover those costs. For more information, visit the $afety Pays web page.